As aviation’s first responders, we support the assistance trained animals can provide for passengers with disabilities and veterans, as defined by the American Disabilities Act. Currently in aviation, however, access is defined by the Air Carrier Access Act, which provides less definition. In 2016, AFA participated in a Department of Transportation (DOT) advisory committee, which addressed some of these inconsistencies as well as certain other issues of concern for passengers with disabilities.
Meanwhile, the number of emotional support animals on planes has significantly increased in the last 3 years. We believe DOT needs to move forward with setting standards to cut down on fraud. This is about maintaining safety, health and security for passengers and crew, while ensuring accessibility for those who need it.
Department of Transportation ACCESS Advisory Committee
AFA participated in the DOT Advisory Committee on Accessible Air Transportation (ACCESS Advisory Committee) in 2016 working on several issues, including service and emotional support animals.
The ACCESS Committee was established to negotiate and develop a proposed rule concerning accommodations for air travelers with disabilities addressing in-flight communications, accessible lavatory on new single-aisle aircraft, and service animals. The committee reached agreement on in-flight communications and accessible bathrooms on single-aisle aircrafts. However, the Committee was not able to reach agreement on service animals. In May 2018, the DOT issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking ("ANPRM") on service animals.
Airlines Take Action
In 2018, without action from the DOT, airlines began revising emotional support animal policies.
Delta Air Lines announced increased requirements for emotional support animals in January, detailing an 84% increase in reported animal incidents since 2016. AFA Statement >
United Airlines announced a new policy that increases requirements for emotional support animals, following a 75 percent year-over-year increase in emotional support animals onboard the airline's flights. AFA Statement >
In July 2018, AFA submitted comments to DOT on the Advance notice of proposed rulemaking "Traveling by Air With Service Animals."